PEORIA, IL -- The Peoria District 150 School Board gives $5.2 million yearly to the charter school Quest, but never discusses the school, despite problems there, school critic Terry Knapp told the board at its Oct. 24 meeting.
"That's my taxpayer dollars," he said. "It is your fiduciary responsibility" to know the amount of money being spent, and to take an interest in the school, Knapp said.
For example, the first graduating class had only 39 graduates out of 75 that entered the class. What happened to the other students? he asked.
Two top administrators recently left, and retirees were hired to work with the teachers, he said. Teacher turnover there is strong, and one third lack teaching credentials. The Elite group was hired to enforce discipline.
Then 88 students were taken into the freshman class, though the charter says the class should be 75 students, he said.
Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat responded that the district's pay to the school is capped at 75 students, and the district is not paying for the Elite group or the retired teacher/mentors.
Here is a recording of the public comments.
Amr Elsamny questioned the board about the long walks to school now taking place because the bus schedule has been cut back. His children, ages 5 and 7, have to walk a total of three miles daily to and from school, he said. But what will happen when the weather gets cold, he asked. "What are your plans for winter?"
Elsamny earlier proposed volunteer car pools to drive children to school, but school officials said liability issues prevented that option.
-- Elaine Hopkins
From Sharon Crews: Over the last ten years of requesting data through the Freedom of Information Act, I have unfortunately discovered that the history of Peoria Public Schools evidently has a shelf life.
For instance, soon after Dr. Lathan arrived, I wanted data to encourage the new administration to consider once again offering high school summer school, which was ended by the Royster administration.
I requested data about summer school enrollment, the cost of summer school to the district, and how it was financed—the cost of tuition, etc. FOIA personnel searched for the data and discovered that there was none. I was told that summer school had been paid for with Title I funds that were no longer available. I knew that was not true and finally some believable information was offered to verify that Title I funds had never been used.
I fail to understand why this information was discarded. Why shouldn’t the history of a school district be readily available? Success or failure can only be measured by comparing the present with the past.
Recently, I requested data about the history of Manual’s faculty from 2007 through the present. Actually, I asked for a listing of all employees and all positions they held for each of the last ten years.
I received a thorough list of about 200 employees and their jobs or titles for each year. However, I was told that there was no such list for 2007-2008. Someone took the time to scrounge up a “not so thorough list” from an old district employee directory.
Comparing the course offerings and the Manual faculty for the last ten years with the data from the 1970s through 1990s would indeed be depressing, but it should be available, especially to a school board that certainly should know about the past in order to make decisions about the present and the future.
I haven’t finished compiling the data in response to my FOIA request, but I am baffled by some omissions. There are no deans of students listed, and Dr. Kherat and Taunya Jenkins are not mentioned on any of the ten lists.
More disturbing is that there is no mention of a chemistry teacher for three of the ten years and no physics teacher for four of the ten years. Does that mean that those two subjects were not taught at Manual?
On another topic, any additions to curriculum, programs, etc., are reflected in how you spend the district’s money. Your expenditures tell us what you think is important for the district.
Therefore, I continue to request that the the list of expenditures to be approved be attached to the agenda for each meeting. As it is, we have to wait until the minutes are approved and posted to know how you spent taxpayer money. I would, also, appreciate hearing board members ask questions about expenditures so that we can be informed not only what is to be purchased but why the expenditure is necessary.
Please continue to be as transparent as possible about not only expenditures but also about how new discipline policies are working, etc. - 30 -